A common question that you’ll come across in different forums is about running your graphics card without drivers. Is it really possible to run a GPU without installing the compatible drivers? So, we’ll answer that in detail here in this guide. Also, we’ll focus on why drivers are necessary for a graphics card.
Absolutely yes, you can run a graphics card without installing proper drivers. However, keep in mind that without GPU drivers you’ll be limited to 2D tasks only. You can browse through different apps in Windows, watch movies, surf the internet, etc. But don’t expect your graphics card to play video games or tackle any complex graphical workload without drivers.
In simple words, you’ll not be able to execute the full power of your graphics card.
What Happens When You Don’t Have Graphics Drivers Installed
Let’s say you have a random dedicated graphics card installed on your computer. As soon as you turn on the computer, your BIOS loads a generic video driver. As your Windows loads, it tries to launch your graphics card drivers.
If there are no graphics drivers installed, then Windows loads its own built-in video drivers. These built-in drivers give you video output on your monitor so you can control your computer.
You’ll be able to do simple tasks that don’t depend upon graphical power. But complex graphical tasks like gaming or content creation would need you to have your drivers installed.
Lastly, without video drivers, you’ll be unable to scale up the screen resolution. The generic built-in graphics drivers would limit you to use a specific amount of resolutions like 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768. This would make your screen look awful even if you have a higher refresh rate monitor on your desk.
Why Graphics Card Need Drivers to Run Properly
Everything within a computer is divided between software and hardware. It’s the software that controls the hardware. Take an example of a car, without a driver it’s unable to start and move your car.
The same is the case with your GPU, without any set of instructions, a graphics card is unable to do its job.
GPU drivers have a lot of hard work to deal with like controlling fan speeds, receiving instructions from the CPU, encoding and decoding video, taking care of special effects like RTX or DLSS, etc.
So, GPU manufacturers know that they cannot change the hardware once it’s in the hands of the end-user. But what they can really change is the coding that is used to interact with the hardware.
Let’s take an example of playing a game on your computer.
Each game engine rasterizes the set of data from the CPU and then creates different polygons. After that Nshaders are applied to those polygons. Moving on, the Antialiasing and other prettifiers get into work and 2D elements are drawn.
So, there are a lot of processes involved in creating a single 2D element. To carry out these processes correctly in real-time, a graphics card needs a set of instructions from drivers.
If you are playing a game that has an average frame rate of 60fps, this means your GPU is trying to create 60 frames per second on your monitor. At the same time, your CPU is controlling what’s happening in the game like moving your characters to the left or right, running, walking, etc. And this communication between your CPU and GPU is controlled via graphics card drivers.
Why Do You Need to Update Your GPU Drivers?
Every version of GPU drivers has its own set of instructions or parameters to interpret a specific program. New games and applications are launched every day, which might cause conflict with your old GPU drivers.
For example, you may experience terrible gaming performance even if you have a powerful gaming graphics card. But your old GPU drivers might be limiting your game to squeeze more juice out of your graphics card.
So one way around this is to update your graphics card to the latest version available on the manufacturer’s website.
Download the latest drivers for:
Finally, you can run your graphics card without installing any video drivers. You can browse the internet or watch videos, you’ll get through it. However, keep in mind that to utilize the full power of your GPU in gaming or content creation, you’ll need to have drivers installed first.
Hi, I’m the author and founder of this blog. I have more than 10 years of experience in the industry. Throughout my journey I’ve tested and reviewed hundreds of graphics card for custom PC builds. I believe my knowledge and experience will help you choose the card that really falls to your needs and budget.